Response and Rebuttal: Having a Good Argument on a Blog
by Enzo F. Cesario
Published on this site: July 28th, 2011 - See
more articles from this month
According to one theory of knowledge, there are no original
facts. All knowing is gained through more knowing, each fact tied
to every other fact like a spider web - none supported completely
on its own, but all working beautifully in concert. Whether this
is ultimately true philosophically, it illustrates a key point of
online knowledge: Everything worthwhile refers back to something
This is particularly true of the many arguments on the web. The
strongest arguments are those that can relate their case to other
fields of knowledge and understanding. While there are always
those who will buy into constantly debunked arguments, by and
large the web is a place where the meritocracy of truth can hold
So, how exactly does one harness this for his or her own blog?
First, understand that an argument always produces hard feelings.
This is the inherent risk of it; people do not like to be proven
wrong. Whether it is cultural or evolutionary in nature, there is
an almost gut-level need to be right in an argument. If you have
a discussion of this sort, you will run the risk of alienating
some audience members.
However, the same effect can gain you a strong readership if
handled properly. People admire those who can demonstrate a
strong case against consistent criticism. Take the video bloggers
Thunderf00t and AronRa on YouTube. Both of these men advocate
very specific positions about science, free speech and religion,
and the role of these entities in the modern world. Both have
come under extensive attack, including outright legal action in
some cases, for advocating their views and maintaining the
argument about these issues. Yet both have very popular YouTube
channels, and both writers have been booked for speaking
engagements as a result of their work. Their channels are
consistently growing, largely because they are willing to have
arguments and back them up with strong evidence.
The first step is to make sure the argument is worth having. Is
it genuinely an issue worth arguing over, with significant
relevance to the average user? Consider your audience carefully
for this one. Arguments about freedom of speech may well touch on
everyone's lives in some degree, but if your blog is dedicated
to the subtleties of audiophile technologies, it might not be the
argument to have.
Once you have made the decision that a point needs to be argued,
it is important to match the intensity of your tone to the
relevance of the point. If you have a relatively academic
disagreement with one portion of another blogger's work, then it
would likely not be appropriate to ream the entire piece based on
one disagreement, or to focus on the disagreement instead of the
areas of concordance.
This should be common sense, but the web seems to create a
tendency in people to narrow their focus onto odd elements.
Begin with a post stating the basics of the other party's case,
honestly and omitting nothing relevant. Then provide your
commentary and rebuttal in specific terms, providing due credit
and citations and making sure to link to your opposite number's
blog if the argument is occurring between the blogs, or in the
comments section if the discussion is to be had there.
Remember also to be gracious in victory and polite in defeat. It
may well be that you utterly end their argument. If so, then well
done. If they concede the point, accept the concession and move
on. People have had their show, things have been learned, and
hopefully both of you have benefited. Similarly, if you are
clearly shown to be in the wrong, you gain much more credibility
by revising your stance and acknowledging the opposing party's
points. This is not formal debate, where the idea is to win
points - it's to maintain good discussion and draw in the kind
of people who take your work seriously.
Tying in with this effect is the user effect. People feel more
invested in a blog when they feel their contributions are honored
and considered worthwhile. So if a commenter to your blog
provides a particular insight on an ongoing discussion or
argument you are having with another blogger, bring them in.
Highlight insightful commentary from your readers with a post, or
incorporate it into one if appropriate to do so. This will
encourage more people to bring commentary in, both for and
against your point of view. This is a great way to attract the
viewers of your opposite number's blog, as they feel their input
will not be ignored.
So, in the end, should you go looking for arguments to start?
Probably not; enough of them will present themselves to you. This
is evident from reading just about any blog on the web. Read
enough of them, and you will find something you disagree with. If
you feel you can have a reasonable dialog with the writer of
another blog, or if you feel their views are so drastically wrong
as to require your rebuttal, then by all means do so. Simply do
not forget to make it an argument worth having, and one that will
educate and entertain your readers.
Copyright (c) 2011 Enzo F. Cesario
Enzo F. Cesario is an online branding specialist
and co-founder of Brandsplat, a digital content
agency. Brandsplat creates blogs, articles, videos
and social media in the "voice" of our client's
brand. It makes sites more findable and brands more
recognizable. For the free Brandcasting Report go to
http://www.BrandSplat.com/ or visit our blog at http://www.iBrandCasting.com/.